To understand how angina is classified, you should know first that angina is not a disease, but rather a manifestation of a heart condition. Thus, the classification into types is based on how symptoms are manifested and how the pathology occurs.
The main types of angina are:
- Stable angina
- Unstable angina
- Prinzmetal’s variant angina
- Microvascular angina
There are some other minor types, but they are incredibly rare compared to the above. Now, let’s take each one of them and discuss it in detail.
Types of angina
It is the most common type of angina and the most important cause of chest pain. It results from the narrowing of the coronary arteries -the main blood supply to the heart muscle- from chronic deposition of fat in their walls, causing plaques and decreasing the diameter of the vessels in a process known as atherosclerosis. The pathology of coronary artery narrowing is gradual and takes years to develop. The condition remains asymptomatic until the narrowing reaches the threshold at which it starts causing the characteristic anginal pain. This pain is a consequence of not meeting the oxygen supply requirements of the blood and may lead to ischemia. The patient can predict his or her attacks as they have specific “triggers” that include:
- Physical exercise
- Emotional stress
- Cold exposure
- Heavy meals, especially consisting of fatty foods.
Attacks are usually brief (not more than 10 minutes) and are relieved by medications as nitrates and by rest. Since stable angina is a gradual process, symptoms tend to worsen over time, and the effort needed to cause symptoms become less until it reaches the level of occurring at rest.